How to Talk to Your Partner About Money

5 ways (1)We all know it can be tricky to start a conversation about money with the people we love. Our society has a BIG taboo on talking about income, debt, and money in general. But if you’re going to share a life with somebody, you both need to understand where you stand as a couple.

Think about it. Imagine you are trying to build a house with your partner. Would you just start laying bricks without talking about how big you wanted it to be, or how many floors you wanted in the house? What if you didn’t know where the building materials were going to come from, or which one of you was responsible for deciding?

Of course not! You would make a plan. And you need to do the same thing with your finances. It’s hard, but you will come out on the other side feeling even closer! Remember, you and your partner(s) are on the same team, so you need to learn the best ways to support each other. Here are some things you might want to consider before you have the talk.

TIMING

My fiance and I have been talking about money since the verrryyy early stages of our relationship. We knew pretty quickly that we worked well together and we were in it for the long haul. I remember going on vacation with him six months into dating, and knowing right there that I would marry him. So, obviously, I had to start talking about money  because I’m overbearing so that we could plan our lives together! Lucky for me, he didn’t run away screaming.

Talking about money usually comes up when you are about to turn a corner in the relationship. Maybe you’re talking about moving in together, buying a house, or getting married. Depending on where you are in your relationship, the conversation is going to be different. Will it make sense for you to get joint accounts? If you’re saving towards a goal, will you both contribute the same amount each week?

DIFFERENCES IN BACKGROUND

It’s important to think about where you and your partner come from. What did you learn about money growing up that affects the way you think about it now? What about your partner? Maybe one of you grew up much better off than the other, or one of you had a parent that stayed home instead of working. These are things that could affect how you think about your future!

Spend some time reflecting on your attitudes towards money and how that might affect how you perceive your partner. Make sure you’re ready to come to the conversation with an open mind. Listen to what your partner says about the values they have and where they come from, and ask them to do the same for you.

YOUR COMMUNICATION STYLE

If you always have long, in depth conversations about the things going on in your life, you are probably in good shape to have this conversation. But if you tend to shy away from direct communication, this might be harder for you! Know your strengths and weaknesses so that you don’t end up overwhelmed or getting defensive – these are killers of open communication!

Here are 5 ways to approach the topic with your partner – pick what feels right and what matches the way you already interact as a couple.

  • Set aside some time, and come prepared. You’re going to lay it ALL out there, so bring your laptop and your spreadsheets and talk numbers, baby. Know what you want to come out of the conversation with. Are you combining your budgets? Are you going to save towards a trip or down payment together? Set a goal with your partner so you come out of the meeting feeling accomplished.
  • Share something about yourself first. Maybe you feel more comfortable talking about money than your partner. Don’t pressure them to tell you everything right away, but normalize the topic by telling them how much you earn, how much you pay for rent, or how much debt you have. Don’t make negative statements about people with debt or low earners – make sure your partner feels safe telling you that
  • Make it a date. Warm yourselves up to having the talk by agreeing to talk for a certain period of time, and then go on a date and leave the money talk at home. You’ll appreciate having the time to process and reconnect in more familiar territory.
  • Be prepared for a surprise. Trust me, something will come out during the conversation that you weren’t expecting. You might find out that your partner doesn’t want to buy a house unless they can pay cash, or you might find out that they are perfectly fine making minimum payments on their student loans for the next twenty years. You don’t need to fight about these things, but when you come against a conflict, ask your partner why they feel that way, and suggest ways that you can compromise. Would a 50% down payment work? Would they be okay making a 10% increase in their loan payments?
  • Prepare your partner for a surprise. Maybe you’re nervous about this conversation because you have debt you feel ashamed of, or because you don’t make as much money as your partner. Let your partner know you’re a little embarrassed of your financial situation before you go into the conversation so that they know to be extra supportive. Remember, having debt doesn’t make you a bad person. The more honest that you are with each other, the better equipped you are to help each other!

What are some strategies you use to talk to your partner about money? Did any of you get surprised by how different or how in sync you are with your partner?